Yesterday and today I attended the Future of Local Government Conference, an event organised by the MAV (Municipal Association of Victoria). The conference, which is in its second year, explores the relationship between local, state and federal governments as well as future governance and funding issues for local government.
Key issues facing local government include ever increasing cost shifting (particularly from the State Government) and the requirement to fund services from a limited income base. It is imperative that local government is treated as an equal peer among State and Federal governments to ensure that both cost shifting and wasteful duplication is minimised.
It is also imperative that local government, as the form of government closest to the community, actively engages its citizens to ensure that the general public is genuinely represented in decisions affecting the local community.
In this regard, a number of international examples from New Zealand, the US and the UK were provided to demonstrate the potential future of local government within Australia.
The collective strength of local government is seen in a number of areas, such as public transport advocacy through the Eastern Transport Coalition, and it is imperative that local government presents a strong and united voice is pushing for genuine and positive reform of Australia’s governance structures while ensuring that the community is directly engaged in the decision making process.